Tag Archives: Habit

Are you living a life of distraction?

Does this sound familiar? You are working on a project, music is playing. You make it a few minutes but social media chimes that a “friend” has posted something. You check it out. More than a few minutes later you get back to work. Before you accomplish too much, someone texts or IMs you. Your day continues with this constant interruption and it is finally to come home. On the drive home, you listen to an audible book, which is interrupted several times as you are texting to firm up your dinner plans….using appropriate hands free technology, of course. Eventually you get to exercise, popping in another audible book or watching TV the whole time.

I’m not criticizing. I understand completely. I counted my interruptions the other day. Just in my regular job, I averaged 150 incoming email a day. I also had 80 outgoing emails, thirty IM conversations, 15 texts and ten phone calls. This didn’t count the meetings I was in, the hallway conversations or anything related to my personal life. I was distracted.

Distractions can be a addictive. Every little ding, beep or post releases a little dopamine. Sitting quietly alone with your thought can becomes an odd feeling, like accidentally meeting a childhood friend you’ve lost contact with.

Turn off some of your notices. Cancel some of your email subscriptions. Let some texts sit unanswered. Turn off all electronics for a few minutes a day and just be alone with your thoughts. There are great things happening in your head. Be quiet and present once in a while to hear what your mind has to say.

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Turning stop goals into go goals

Whether in business, relationships or personal lives, there are two broad categories of goals around making change: stop and go.

Stop goals are simply that, things you want to stop doing. Stop blowing up in meetings. Stop over eating. Stop taking on too many tasks. Stop taking your relationship for granted. Stop procrastinating.

Go goals are about things you want to start doing. Start speaking up. Start eating better. Start being proactive.

The two goals use different parts of your mind. Stop goals are mainly about using willpower and must be constantly applied. Stop goals are usually about breaking existing habits. Go goals rely more on creativity and starting new habits.

Research has shown that people using go goals are more successful than people who are using stop goals. Also people are more likely to give up on stop goals because it is more obvious each time they fail while go goals are are more about successes.

So. What do you do with this information? How can this improve your life? When you create a goal, be sure to turn it into a positive goal. For example, don’t have a goal of not eating that triple bacon cheese burger. Instead have a goal of eating a salad. Don’t have a goal of showing up your coworker. Instead have a goal of getting the most out of the team. Don’t have a goal of stop being so negative. Instead have a goal of being more positive.

20 in 20

I’m sure I’ve written about this tool, trick, hack before but it definitely is worth repeating. It is probably the most useful bit of homework that my clients enjoy. Well “enjoy” might not be the right word. Maybe “productive”.

Basically it is a free writing exercise with a few bounds. It can be used to push for creativity or for honesty. It can bring world peace. Ok, that might be a little hyperbole but it is a great tool that can help you push back limitations.

Go to a quiet place with few distractions. Put your cellphone on silent. Set a timer for twenty minutes. On a piece of paper (yes I recommend paper for this task) write across the top the problem you are trying to solve. Well it could be a problem or a challenge or an exploratory question. Then for the next twenty minutes write out as many responses as you can. Aim for twenty responses. To get twenty, you don’t have time to judge, edit or criticize your responses. Don’t put a lot of thought into any response because the clock is ticking. Remember you are not looking for quality responses, just a lot of them.

After the alarm rings, put the paper away without reading it. Let a day pass. Do things that allow your thoughts to flow. Really how many great ideas come to you in the shower or waking from a dream. Then go back to the paper. Read over your responses without editing or judging them. Set the timer for another twenty minutes. Try to add more responses or flesh out the responses you’ve already wrote down. At this point, you are adding, not editing. No criticism.

Let one more day pass. Go for a walk. Now reread all of your ideas. Circle anything that speaks to you. Pick the three best responses. Also pick the wildest response and the most “out there” response. Set your timer on last time. Now take those final five responses and add as much to them as you can. Include things you circled on responses that didn’t make the cut.

This is a great tool for “questions” like:

1.) What do I want to accomplish this year?

2.). Why do I hate my job?

3,) How could I get more customers?

4.) Why is my boss acting like a jerk?

5.) Why should I take this job?

6.) What would make me happy?

As you can see, it has a wide range of uses. It helps you tap into your subconscious and trap your underlying thoughts in writing.

The Hard Work

Had an initial meeting with potential client this week.  My first meeting with a new client is really a session.  I don’t waste time and like to get right to work.  I mentioned, perhaps a bit too frequently, that I help but the client has to do the hard work.  He finally called me on it, what is the hard work, he asked.

To break it down, if you are trying to make a change, the hard work comes down to four areas:

1.) Brutal self honesty – most of us don’t like to be too brutally honest with ourselves all the time.  Actually, most of us don’t like to be too brutally honest with ourselves most of the time and really why should we?  We get to be less than our 100% best some of the time, a little vacation from our own personal perfection, and we don’t have to analyze all of our little lapses.  That’s ok but when you are trying to make a change, you have to be brutally honest to understand what needs to change.

2.) Making a change – our environment and our psyche are typically designed to maintain the status quo.  It is easier to just keep doing what we’ve always done than it is to make change.  Making a change and sticking to it is hard work.

3.) Taking responsibility – it is so easy to blame outside forces or other people for where we are in our lives.  It is much harder to own that where we are in our lives depends more on our efforts and reactions.

4.) Forgiving – to forgive ourselves and others can be very difficult.  Sure, we say “I forgive you” and might even mean it, but months or years later we still hold onto the pain.  To truly forgive someone (including yourself), you need to move on from the pain.

“Just stop,” the most useless advice

Ever try to break a habit?  It isn’t as easy as simply not doing the habit.  It is incredibly difficult to “just stop” but why is that?  Habits are actually hardwired into our brains.  According to Ann Graybiel and Kyle Smith in Good Habits, Bad Habits explain how the brain builds a closed loop.  Simply choosing to NOT do the task is actually you working against your brain.  Even motivation isn’t that helpful.

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To stop doing a habit, it is important to understand the environmental triggers and create work arounds.  First, try to minimize triggers.  Second, start with the easier to eliminate habits first.  Third, build strategies to distract yourself.  Even making a habit 20 seconds harder to do can make a big difference.  Fourth, measure your actions and the results.  Fifth, be realistic.  It probably took you years to build a habit.  It will take time to eliminate it.  You will have setbacks.  That’s ok.  Just restart the process and keep moving forward.

Starting habits

I had a great habit a couple years ago of walking in the mornings.  When I say walk, it was a fast paced 60 to 90 minutes all over town.  I’d come back covered in sweat and out of breath.  I also came back with determination and clarity about my goals for the day.  I was healthier and happier after the walks.  Things happened and I got away from that habit.  Here’s how I’m restarting it.

First, I’m starting small.  I leave the house with the intention of a 20 minute mosey instead of a 60 minute power walk.  As this becomes a habit, I’ll lengthen the duration and up the intensity.

Second, I make it as easy as possible.  My sweats and sneakers are all set so I can grab them and go without walking up anyone in the house.

Third, I have a secondary goal in mind.  For today, I wanted to take the above picture.  On other days, I went to see how a neighbor’s new landscaping was coming in.  On another, I walked by a house for sale my wife mentioned.

Fourth, I combined walking with another morning task.  One of the things that got in the way of me walking is that I also started writing in the morning.  By walking to get the above picture and plotting out in my head what I was going to write, I was able to accomplish both goals.  By combining a couple of tasks, usually one that you want to do with one that you should do, you are much more likely to get both done.  Another example is when my wife and I used to go out for Indian buffets for Sunday brunch.  That was before kids by the way.  We really enjoyed it be a buffet is heavy on the calories.  Therefore, we combined walking with the brunch by walking to the restaurants.

Book Sale – Greater Than

I’m trying out an Amazon promotion feature on my first book, Greater Than.  For the next couple of days, it will be $0.99 and then up to $1.99 before going to full price.

Greater Than is part of the Little Book Series For Big Success.  Each book is a quick read intended to give you tools and insights to help you achieve greater level of sustainable success in your life.  No get rich quick type of schemes.  Just practical advice and motivation that you can work into your daily life, starting today.  Make each day a little better than the day before and you will quickly see big changes accumulate in your life.  Make success part of your daily habits.

Check it out here: